What Beliefs Will Appall Future Generations

“Many of our grandparents were racist, and some of our parents are homophobes. Which of our own closely held beliefs will our own children and grandchildren be appalled by?” That’s a question being posed on Reddit and the majority of responses are thought provoking and intriguing.

Phil Dingra selects a few of his favourite replies, a few of which relate to:

  • Privacy
  • Religious overtolerance
  • Nationalism
  • Nudity and pornography taboos
  • Our aversion to eugenics or designer babies

Two more I would add to this list:

  • Our aversion to euthanasia (or even to debate it seriously)
  • Our current behaviour toward the environment

via Link Banana

Just in case it’s not picked up in the ‘similar posts’ section, Gluttony and Adultery dealt with a similar topic.



5 responses to “What Beliefs Will Appall Future Generations”

  1. Paul

    I think the premise of the question is a little naiive, and the clue is in the fact that the author of the question thinks that future generations will be ‘appalled’.

    Why will they be appalled? Because with the benefit of hindsight, future generations will be able to see that the beliefs which some people currently have were actually unjustified. In other words, the beliefs were unjustfied by the actual threats presented.

    But even so, even if in the future the threats turn out to be empty, it does not mean they are empty now.

    For example, let’s take the first one – privacy.

    If I decide I want to be forward thinking and give up my privacy now by handing out my name and address to every company that asks for it, I will get a mountain of junkmail tomorrow and even more the day after, etc. etc.

    So giving up my belief in my right to privacy currently is quite simply A Very Bad Idea.

    The point I’m making is that some of those beliefs listed are very valid coping mechanisms for our current environment, but might not be for our descendants’.

  2. Interesting point Paul but I think you are taking it face value. Certainly part of privacy is to cope with today’s mechanims but privacy is more than a coping mechanism of avoiding spam. Doing away with privacy has many more profound impacts than the latest Best Buy catalogue through your front-door. Privacy helps us define and maintain our identity for one.

  3. Paul

    Hi Paul – what a classy name we share!

    I think you’re kind of agreeing – of course privacy is about more than spam. Its just the simplest way of illustrating how this notion of right and wrong beliefs is mistaken.

    It has recently begun to irritate me that there is a wave of inwardly-directed sanctimonious fervour about how we’ve handled everything from economics to the environment to foreign policy.

    It is the mistaken idea that given the same environment and choices, someone *better* would have somehow done things better, and this article (and the question it presents) seems to be one such notion.

    In the end though, it comes down to foresight – “if we had known then what we know now … ” etc. But then that’s the tragedy of being human, and no amount of self flaggelation is going to make us better able to peer into the future to understand what ‘optimal’ beliefs and values we should hold.

  4. Sam

    Sorry that my name is not “Paul.”

    I would venture that our general orientation towards other species/evolution will someday be looked on as appalling. To assume that only humans are “intended” to reach our level of evolutionary development is a rather narrow view of evolution. We will come to believe that other species should get their shot at continuing to evolve, which has implications for habitat preservation and so forth.

  5. Andrew

    The question isn’t asking what we would do differently now. It’s asking which beliefs that we hold close, so close that we don’t even think about them, will change with new generations. To see what I mean, try convincing your racist grandparents that skin color is only skin deep. In thirty, forty, fifty years, it makes sense that society’s prevalent attitudes about certain things will change. Nobody’s trying to “fix” history or change attitudes about today’s culture. Who knows what will come down the line in ten years? People who died in the 70’s probably never considered something like the internet. People who died in 1901 probably never dreamed people would fly around the world by the millions on a daily basis. It only makes sense that some of our attitudes may seem as outmoded and arcaic as horse-drawn carriages and steamboats. And the use of the word ‘appalling’? Well, look at Jim Crow laws.

    (Obviously racism is a -huge- example, but society also has goes through cycles: prohibition vs. tolerance of drugs/alcohol, religion vs. atheism, strict marriage customs vs. blatant sexuality. And usually people on one side of those issues are appalled by the people on the other.)